Let me confess! The day I wrote this post I had an Iced Tea from McDonalds! It was Victoria Day long weekend. My daughter and me were alone at home and needed a change. So we hopped over to McDonalds for a McChicken with a side salad (not bad!) and an Iced Tea. Let me tell you, that this does not happen often. Perhaps once every 2-3 months.

There is nothing wrong in having a pop, that iced cap or Frappuccino occasionally. When I say occasionally I seriously mean occasionally – To clarify once in 2-3 months.

An average can of sugar-sweetened soda or fruit punch provides about 150 – 200 calories, almost all of them from sugar, usually high-fructose corn syrup (another name for sugar). That’s the equivalent of 8- 10 teaspoons of table sugar (1tsp sugar = about 20 calories). If you were to drink just one can of a sugar-sweetened soft drink every single day you could easily and unknowingly gain up to 5 pounds in a year. And you won’t even realize or feel it! The weight creeps up slowly over the years and before you know, you would be 20 lbs overweight. And then losing that weight is an entirely different story. Let us not get started here!

Below you will find the calories that beverages typically have:

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Milk based beverages

Milk based beverages are certainly a healthier option since they have additional nutritional value. However, keep in mind that they also come with a truckload of calories due to the added sugar. So be mindful.

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Coffee drinks and fruit smoothies

Coffee drinks and fruit smoothies may also seem like a healthier option, but the calories in some of them may come as a shock to you. So a good practice is to read labels or nutrition boards in coffee shops.

You can visit this website to see the number of teaspoons of sugar in various beverages and drinks: http://www.sugarstacks.com/

A good practice: Read the Nutrition Label carefully

The calories listed on the label is for a specific portion size and not the entire can or bottle.  If you drink the entire can or bottle, then be sure to multiply the no. of servings by the calories/serving. See example below:

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The number of calories/serving is: 100

The total number of servings: 2.5

So if someone was to drink the entire container the total number of calories would be 100 X 2.5 = 250 and not 100.

The graphic below shows the number of calories in a 12 oz and 20 oz drink:

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Substituting no- or low-calorie drinks for sugar-sweetened beverages can cut about 650 calories. See example below.

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Sugar is often labeled with other names such as:

  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Honey
  • Sugar
  • Syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Dextrose

So when you are reading the ingredients on a nutrition label, be cautious of the above terms.

Now let me get to the point. After all, how can you substitute those high calories from drinks and beverages and still enjoy your favorite ones? So Let’s dive in……..

At the coffee shop:

  • Get your drink made with fat-free or low-fat milk instead of whole milk
  • Ask for the smallest size if you want the real thing.
  • Avoid flavor shots, syrups since they are sugar-sweetened and will add calories to your drink.
  • Skip the frothy stuff – whipped cream.
  • Simple is best: Order a plain cup of coffee with fat-free milk and 1 sugar.

At the smoothie bar:

  • Ask for the smallest size.
  • Take some time to review the nutrition board if available. It will pay off. If not, then asking for the ingredients that will go into the smoothie will also help in making a wise choice.
  • Hold back or cut down the extra sugar that is added to smoothies. Ask the smoothie to be made with only the fruit.

Other suggestions:

  • Choose good old water.
  • Choose diet, or low-calorie beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Carrying a bottle of water is a good idea.
  • Do not keep pop, fruit drinks or any other sugar-sweetened beverages at home. If they are easily available, you will land up drinking them.
  • Serve water with meals.
  • If water is too boring for you, add slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, or watermelon, or drink sparkling water. You could also use a water bottle with an infuser and drop some slices of your favorite fruit along with mint leaves into the infuser and keep refilling the bottle with water. You can even add a dash of stevia.
  • If you like juice go for half and half: ½ cup juice and ½ cup water or carbonated water such as Seltzer if you like the fizz factor.
  • Green tea is a good option. Bonus: there are so many benefits to drinking green tea. If you do not have a taste for green tea, add 1/4- 1/2 tsp honey. Over time you will get used to it.
  • Vegetable juice is a great choice. I know you will probably say it tastes horrible. Well try my tip: add a liitle bit of lemon juice, a dash of salt and pepper or even some hot sauce like Franks. I have even tried vegetable juice with Seltzer and it tastes fantastic.

Some additional resources if you would like to read:

If you have any favorite substitutes that you would like to share post them in the comment box below.

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